Moonlighting Policy Sheds Light on Tricky Issue

Many companies take a hard line when it comes to moonlighting and freelancing. It’s often driven by the fear that an employee may start slacking off on their regular job, or — even worse — begin working for a direct competitor on the sly. But in these recessionary times, you may want to have a heart when it comes to your employees needing to bring in extra cash.

The truth is there are some positives about officially allowing your workers to freelance on their own time. First, it can help enhance an employee’s skill set — making him or her even more valuable to you. Second, it reduces the likelihood that they’ll feel the need to be secretive or sneaky about it. Third, they can pump additional income into their pockets — without costing you a dime. Finally, it’s a way to retain valuable employees and keep them happy if you can’t afford to give them big raises right now.

The biggest challenge most companies run into when it comes to their employees freelancing or moonlighting is that they simply don’t have an official policy in place. That’s what makes it so fuzzy. Putting together a document that is fair and just — and that clearly states your organization’s stance on the issue — will remove confusion and keep everyone more productive.

Here are a few tips for developing your policy:

Make it clear that your job comes first. Let workers know that they cannot allow other jobs to interfere with their job performance in the primary position that pays their bills.

Avoid conflicts of interest. You can prohibit employees from freelancing or moonlighting for direct competitors of your firm. Explain how doing so would impact the company’s bottom line — and, eventually, their regular paychecks. It’s not unheard-of for a competitor to try to lure a talented employee with a sky-high freelance rate — only to pick their brains for proprietary company information or techniques.

Prohibit freelancing during working hours. Employees should not be taking their own business calls on your time. Nor should they be fitting in a little freelance work during downtime at their desks. (Instead, they should notify their supervisors that they’re free for another project.) You may add a clause that they are allowed to conduct their outside freelance business during their designated lunch break, and only off the premises.

Make approval mandatory. A simple way to put it is, “If you wish to work part-time for another firm, please discuss the matter with your supervisor before accepting the job.” Say, for example, they get an opportunity to do a little business on the side for one of your company’s suppliers. Even if it’s an entirely different type of project than they tackle for your firm, they need to let their boss know.

Moonlighting doesn’t have to be murky. Keeping things transparent guarantees trust on all sides.

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